David Mabberley

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David Mabberley
Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History) Botany (1978-1979) (20434715912).jpg
D. J. Mabberley, May 1974, with Chisocheton macranthus
Born May 1948 (1948-05) (age 69)
Tetbury, Gloucestershire, England
Other names David John Mabberley
Residence Mount Victoria, New South Wales, Australia[1]
Nationality United Kingdom
Fields Botany
Education Rendcomb College
Alma mater
Doctoral advisor E. J. H. Corner
Known for The plant-book
Notable awards
Author abbrev. (botany) Mabberley

Professor David John Mabberley AM, (born May 1948) is a British botanist, educator and writer. Among his varied scientific interests is the taxonomy of tropical plants, especially trees of the families Labiatae, Meliaceae and Rutaceae. He is perhaps best known for his plant dictionary The plant-book. A portable dictionary of the vascular plants. The third edition was published in 2008 as Mabberley's Plant-book, for which he was awarded the Engler Medal in Silver in 2009.


Born in Tetbury, Gloucestershire, England, Mabberley won a scholarship to Rendcomb College, Cirencester, then an open scholarship to St Catherine's College, Oxford, where he graduated B.A. in 1970 and M.A. in 1974. Although he intended to work for a doctorate under the cytologist C. D. Darlington he was inspired to move to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, under the supervision of E. J. H. Corner, leading to a Ph.D. in 1973 and D.Phil. (Oxon) in 1975. In 1973 Mabberley was elected the first Claridge Druce junior research fellow at St John's College, Oxford, before being appointed in 1976 to a tutorial fellowship at Wadham College, Oxford (linked to a university lectureship in the Department of Botany, later Plant Sciences, where he set up the "Mablab" with graduate students and post-doctoral research workers from around the world). He served as Dean of Wadham College for many years and was senior proctor at Oxford 1988–1989, later becoming Curator of the Oxford University Herbaria. He has also served in various capacities at numerous universities around the world, including University of Paris (France), University of Leiden (the Netherlands), University of Peradeniya (Sri Lanka), and the University of Western Sydney and Macquarie University (both in New South Wales, Australia).[1] He has held a chair at the University of Leiden since 1995.[2]

Mabberley moved to Australia late in 1996 and ran his own business there, one contract being as CEO of Greening Australia (NSW). In 2004 he was appointed to the Orin and Althea Soest Chair in Horticultural Science at the University of Washington, Seattle, US.[3] During his tenure there, he oversaw the union of the Washington Park Arboretum, Center for Urban Horticulture, Union Bay Natural Area, Elisabeth C. Miller Library and Otis Douglas Hyde Herbarium as the University of Washington Botanic Gardens, of which he was the founding director. In March 2008 he took up the newly created position of Keeper of the Herbarium, Library, Art and Archives at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.[4]

Mabberley is known as a world traveler, having performed fieldwork in many countries over several decades: Kenya (1969, 1970–71), Uganda (1970–71), Tanzania (1971–72), Madagascar (1971), Malaysia, Singapore & Indonesia (1974, 1981), Papua New Guinea (1974, 1989), Seychelles (1978), Panamá (1978–79), Portugal (1984–96), New Caledonia (1984), New Zealand (1990), Sri Lanka (1991), Hawai’i (1998), Cape York, Australia (Royal Geographical Society of Queensland expedition, 2002), Malaysia (2003, 2007), Vietnam (2005), China (2006, 2008).

During research for his Ph.D. dissertation, he traveled widely and collected plants throughout eastern Africa and Madagascar (1970–2), making particularly significant pioneering collections in the Ukaguru Mountains, Tanzania, where he discovered at least twelve new species of plants (and one new snail species) restricted to that range. These include a species of coffee, a giant lobelia (Lobelia sancta (Campanulaceae)), a (hairy) balsam (Impatiens ukagurensis (Balsaminaceae)), and Senecio mabberleyi (Compositae), named after him. He is also commemorated in Homalomena davidiana (Araceae) and Harpullia mabberleyana (Sapindaceae), both from New Guinea and Grewia mabberleyana[5] (Tiliaceae) from Madagascar.

In August 2011 Mabberley became Executive Director of the New South Wales Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust, Australia.[6] In this capacity he was responsible for the management of Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden and Domain, The National Herbarium of New South Wales, The Australian Botanic Garden at Mount Annan near Camden and The Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, Mount Tomah. He left the post in September 2013[7] and shortly afterwards was elected to an Emeritus fellowship [8] at Wadham College, Oxford.[1]

His archive, especially that relating to The plant-book is housed at the National Botanic Garden of Wales, of which he was a Trustee 2008-2011.

Honours and awards[edit]

Among the awards he has received are the José Cuatrecasas Medal for Excellence in Tropical Botany and the Peter Raven Award (by the American Society of Plant Taxonomists "to a plant systematist who has made successful efforts to popularize botany to non-scientists"), both in 2004. In 2006 he was awarded the Linnean Medal of the Linnean Society of London and, in 2011, the Robert Allerton Award for Excellence in Tropical Botany of the National Tropical Botanical Garden, USA.[9]

In 1993 he was elected President of the Society for the History of Natural History. In 2005 he was elected President of the IAPT.

In 2016 he was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for significant service to horticultural science, particularly to plant taxonomy and tropical botany, as an academic, researcher and author.[1]

Published books[edit]

  • La carta de colores de Haenke de la Expedición Malaspina: un enigma - Haenke’s Malaspina colour-chart: an enigma. D. J. Mabberley & M. P. de San Pío Aladrén. 2012. Real Jardín Botánico, CSIC, Madrid, Spain.
  • Mabberley's plant-book. A portable dictionary of plants, their classifications and uses, third edition. D.J. Mabberley, 2008. Cambridge University Press.
  • The story of the apple. B. E. Juniper & D. J. Mabberley. 2006. Timber Press, Portland, Oregon, US & Cambridge, UK.
  • Arthur Harry Church: the anatomy of flowers. D. J. Mabberley. 2000. Merrell & The Natural History Museum, London.
  • Ferdinand Bauer: the nature of discovery. D. J. Mabberley. 1999. Merrell Holberton & The Natural History Museum, London.
  • Paradisus: Hawaiian plant watercolors by Geraldine King Tam. D. J. Mabberley. 1999 [‘1998’]). Honolulu Academy of Arts, Honolulu, Hawai'i, US.
  • The Flora Graeca Story. Sibthorp, Bauer and Hawkins in the Levant. H. W. Lack & D. J. Mabberley. 1998 [‘1999’]. Oxford University Press.
  • An exquisite eye: The Australian flora and fauna drawings 1801-1820 of Ferdinand Bauer. P. Watts, J. A. Pomfret & D. J. Mabberley. 1997. Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales. Glebe, New South Wales, Australia.
  • The plant-book. A portable dictionary of the vascular plants, second edition. D. J. Mabberley, 1997. Cambridge University Press, UK.
  • Meliaceae. In: Foundation Flora Malesiana (Editor). Flora Malesiana, Series 1, Volume 12. D. J. Mabberley, C.M. Pannell & A.M. Sing, 1995. Rijksherbarium/Hortus Botanicus, Leiden University, Leiden, Netherlands.
  • Algarve plants and landscape. Passing tradition and ecological change. D. J. Mabberley & P. J. Placito. 1993. Oxford University Press.
  • Tropical rain forest ecology, second edition. D. J. Mabberley, 1991. Blackie, Glasgow.
  • The plant-book. A portable dictionary of the higher plants. D. J. Mabberley, 1987. Cambridge University Press.
  • Jupiter botanicus. Robert Brown of the British Museum. D. J. Mabberley, 1985. Cramer, Braunschweig & British Museum (Natural History), London.
  • Tropical rain forest ecology. D. J. Mabberley, 1983. Blackie, Glasgow.
  • Revolutionary botany. Thalassiophyta and other essays of A. H. Church. D. J. Mabberley, (Ed.) 1981. Clarendon, Oxford.
  • Tropical botany. Essays presented to E. J. H. Corner for his seventieth birthday. D. J. Mabberley & C. K. Lan (Eds.). 1977. Botanic Gardens, Singapore.

See also[edit]